“Epic” and “cinematic” are some of the more cliche terms used to describe a piece of music. But in the case of Heaven in Her Arms‘ third full-length recording, White Halo, these terms are more than applicable.
Following 2010’s sprawling, brooding Paraselene, White Halo shows this Japanese act pushing further and further away from where they started nearly 16 years ago. Picking up where its predecessor left off, White Halo continues to perfect the band’s stunning amalgam of post-hardcore, black metal and post-rock, while still staying true to their screamo roots. The result is an emotionally palpable record full of thrilling sonic turns and stellar musicianship.
After the hauntingly somber introductory track “Ray of Light at Dusk” envelops listeners in its icy arms, White Halo officially takes off with explosive, atmospheric stampedes with “Abyss of the Moonbow”. This eight-minute epic storms forth with tremolo-picked, black metal esque guitar riffs that are drenched in layers of snowy atmospheres, and are propelled by a pumping hardcore heart. Narrated by emotionally-charged screams, this highly-textural track cycles between frostbitten, ethereal blackened bliss and clean guitar-driven introspection, before concluding with a climax of post-hardcore splendor and proggy solo work.
Post-hardcore and black metal continue to collide on tracks like “Entangled Torus”. Rampaging, melancholic chord progressions dash right out of the gate as virtuosic solo work and tremolo-picked melodies glide over the top of this dramatic tune. Just like other cuts on this record, “Entangled Torus” goes through many jarring twists and turns while still remaining fluid. Swirling gusts of atmospheric black metal will suddenly shift to crushing, metallic riffs accompanied by spiraling guitar leads, and chugging build-ups will break into serene post-rock interludes on the drop of a dime. Heaven in Her Arms succeed in crafting songs that will keep listeners thoroughly engaged throughout.
From the post-black metal blitzes of “Abyss of the Moonbow” and “Entangled Torus”, to the almost melodeath-inspired riffing on “Forgivable Drown”, to the orchestral flair presented in “Glare of the End”, White Halo provides a lot of grandiose, multifaceted pieces throughout its duration to keep listeners on the edges of their seats. But the album’s crowning achievement is, arguably, its final 10-minute composition.
“Turbid Fog” closes out the record on a truly powerful note. The sonic leviathan begins with roughly a minute of minimalist electronica before the band come crashing in with one of the heaviest, most potent riffs on the entire album. Triumphant, metallic guitars stomp and tremolo-picked melodies soar over and intertwine with the crushing chords below. Chugging riffs collide with post-rock exhibitions, post-hardcore fervor trades blows with shoegazing textures, and lengthy, heart-wrenching sections of serene melody lead to distorted climaxes of epic proportions on this enthralling piece.
As trite as it is to say, White Halo is an “epic” and “cinematic” album through and through. Heaven in Her Arms have outdone themselves and created a truly sonically arresting album that grabs listeners immediately and refuses to let them go. It’s all at once heavy, exhilarating, reflective and beautiful. Not only is it the band’s magnum opus to date, but it is arguably one of the more intelligent and well-written heavy records of the year thus far. Sleeping on this album is not recommended.
Release Date: July 7, 2017
Label: Translation Loss/Daymare Recordings/Moment of Collapse
Favorite Tracks: “Abyss of the Moonbow” and “Turbid Fog”
For Fans Of: Envy, Celeste, The Saddest Landscape and Oathbreaker